Need a Boost of Happiness? Get Into Nature


Instead of lounging on the couch when you’re feeling blue, get outside! A new study shows nature may stave off depression.

We all know it’s important to get outside and move our bodies for optimal fitness, but did you know that nature may be just as important to your mental health?

“Lower stress, eased anxiety, overall improved well-being and even help through the grieving process have been tied to nature and mental health,” says Mary Duffy, Psychiatric Registered Nurse with Renown Behavioral Health.

Now a new study by Stanford researchers is adding another benefit to the list: a lower risk of depression. 

The study followed people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area versus those walking in a high-traffic setting. The results didn’t show much difference physically but nature walkers did show less activity in the region of the brain associated with depression.

Earlier studies have shown similar increased risk of anxiety and mood disorders for city dwellers versus people living in rural areas.

And with more than half of the world’s population living in urban settings — a number that is expected to keep climbing  — it’s important to note nature’s health benefits.

Nature Nurtures

Believe it or not, studies have also shown getting out and enjoying nature can help boost your everyday social connections which can be critical to reducing overall depression risks.

“Many of our clients talk about how loneliness and isolation affect them,” says Mary. “Social connections, laughter, sleep, and good nutrition and exercise all help reduce your depression risk.”


naturePair this nature news with the numerous benefits from walking — weight management, better heart health, stronger bones, improved self-esteem and mood — and you may be hard pressed to find an excuse to stay inside.

Plus, the good news increases when it comes to kids.

Studies show getting outside improves kids’ cognitive development and creativity and provides relief from symptoms of attention-deficit disorders.

“Children who regularly experience nature are healthier, happier and test better in school,” says Robyn Bjorrnson, Executive Assistant at the Children and Nature Network.

Northern Nevada’s Natural Landscapes

natureFortunately, as northern Nevadans we have no shortage of scenic and wide-open spaces to get outside, breathe in the fragrant air and reduce our depression risk while we’re at it.

So if you and the family want to get away from it all — without having to pitch a tent — we gathered up this list of five great area parks with plenty of trails.

Central Reno

Caughlin Ranch

Directions: Heading from downtown Reno, get onto McCarran Boulevard heading south. Turn right at the second intersection, Caughlin Parkway, and follow to the trail access just past Canyon Edge Drive. You can also park at Mayberry Landing Shopping center and start from there.
Good for dogs? Yes, leashes required
Good for kids? Yes

Mayberry Park

Directions: The Truckee River Path can be accessed throughout downtown Reno. But for a more nature-filled walk, you can start from Dorostkar or Mayberry Parks. Find Dorostkar Park by heading west on Mayberry Drive from McCarran Boulevard. To get to Mayberry Park, head west on 4th Street from McCarran, then turn left on Woodland Avenue.
Good for dogs? Yes, leashes required
Good for kids? Yes

North Reno

Rancho San Rafael Regional Park

Directions: Rancho San Rafael Regional Park is located west of the University of Nevada, Reno campus on the north end of Sierra Street. Turning from Sierra Street will take you to San Rafael Drive along the south side of the park.
Good for dogs? Yes, leashes required
Good for kids? Yes

South Reno

Bartley Ranch Regional Park

Directions: Take McCarran Boulevard south toward Lakeside Drive. Turn right onto Lakeside Drive and left on Bartley Ranch Road. Continue along Bartley Ranch Road,  across the wooden bridge and into the parking area.
Good for dogs? Yes, leashes required
Good for kids? Yes


Lazy 5 Regional Park

Directions: Lazy 5 is located on Pyramid Highway in Spanish Springs. Take Pyramid to Lazy Five Parkway, exiting right from the highway.
Good for dogs? Yes, leashes required
Good for kids? Yes. There’s also a splash park!

Want a more secluded nature outing? Try these regional trails:


Crystal Peak Park 

Directions: Head west on I-80 leaving Reno and take the first exit for Verdi. Stay on the road for 2.5 miles, then turn right on Bridge Street for another 0.5 miles passing over two bridges. You’ll turn right onto Dog Valley Road and stay on it for 8.3 miles until you see the sign for Lookout Campground. Turn left to park.
Good for dogs? Yes, leashes required
Good for kids? Yes

Washoe Valley

Davis Creek Park 

Directions: Head south from Reno toward Washoe Valley and turn right on State Route 429 (Old 395). Travel about 0.5 miles and turn right at the sign for Davis Creek Park. Follow the road to the park.
Good for dogs? Yes, leashes required
Good for kids? Yes

Find More Trails

This is just a brief sampling of some trails in our area. To help you find your favorite, check out a complete trail guide for Washoe County.